Kindness and humility bears fruit in political struggle
The struggle to oppose SB 1146 can teach lessons on the productive nature of humility and kindness. | Tomber Su/THE CHIMES [file]
Six Lessons from SB 1146
If you followed the California Senate Bill 1146 story over the summer, you might have heard that the bill was amended to address the serious religious liberty concerns raised by faith-based schools, including Biola, Azusa Pacific, Westmont, Catholic schools and dozens of others. The amended bill retained its transparency provisions, requiring religious schools like Biola to more prominently communicate our policies and legal exemptions in our brochures and websites. We want to do this. We desire that every student is fully aware of our convictions and community standards. For this reason we are glad for SB 1146’s passage.
SB 1146 gained national attention and media interest because in its earlier form it was an unprecedented encroachment on religious liberty. And though the bill’s threat to religious liberty was averted, we know that more legislation like it will come soon.
What are lessons from SB 1146 that we can take with us going forward?
1) Kindness and humility leads to productive conversation. On one of my trips to Sacramento this year, I met with a legislator passionately opposed to what Biola stands for on human sexuality. As we met, I tried to lead with graciousness and humility. I invited him to our campus to join me for a meal and to meet our students. I told him that Biola as a Christian community is also a learning community, that we want to make sure our campus is a place where all students are safe and flourish. I listened to his questions and answered them honestly. I didn’t change his mind, but I believe I changed his perspective. He told me he would be happy to visit Biola.
2) We must not assume all who oppose us are unreasonable. I believe reasonable people — regardless of where they are on the political spectrum — will listen to reasonable ideas. There are those on the left and the right who are not reasonable and unwilling to listen because fear or anger or the vitriol of special interest groups has deafened them. I believe we can make better progress through conversations with lawmakers by leading with dialogue and not diatribes. And this goes both ways.
3) We may have something to learn. We must acknowledge that there is room for improvement in how we ensure the safety and flourishing of all our students. Legislators have some good ideas about how we can do this better, and we need to listen to them, willing to learn.
4) Telling our narrative can help offset the narratives being told. What would have happened if we had initiated conversations with lawmakers a dozen years ago and had been more clear on how faith-based colleges contribute to the common good of society? Christian higher education has been typecast in a way that is misleading, but we can begin to reverse this by telling stories of the good we contribute to society.
5) We should respect the legislative process. I have found that most legislators want to identify and solve real problems that face their constituents, and they are responsive to constituent input. Legislators were willing to amend SB 1146 because so many people called, emailed and expressed concerns, and the voices that were listened to were the ones that were respectful and articulate. This shows how crucial informed citizens can be when they mobilize and speak out. Are you registered to vote? Do you know who your state and federal representatives are? SB 1146 has highlighted the importance of these questions.
6) We must not be ashamed of our Christian mission. Our biblical foundation is the heart of who we are, and it is what makes us distinct. As this foundation becomes more and more misunderstood in our changing world, and as cultural pressure heightens for us to change, Biola must stay true to our mission. We must have a firm center and soft edges, striving to carry the “aroma of Christ,” as in 2 Corinthians 2:15, in every conversation we have and every calling we pursue.